Walkthrough — Hacktoria: Geolocation 12

(Click here to watch and listen to the video version of this blog entry)

Note: The Hacktoria website no longer has geolocation challenges therefore all the links have been removed. This blog entry is for legacy purposes only. Free feel to give it a go by attempting to geolocate the image before reading the walkthrough.

And back again with another Hacktoria geolocation challenge to solve. I love GEOINT challenges, especially when they force me to learn detailed information about a specific area of the world.
I felt like this one, similarly to geolocation 08, was a good mix of easy and hard. Easy to find the country, hard(ish) to find the exact location of where the photo was taken.
If you are here because you got stuck, you are not alone, I spent a few days (on and off) on this one.
So let’s solve it together now.

Geolocation – 12

Question: What is the name of the city this picture was taken in?

First thing we need to do is to right click the image and save it to our desktop. Then we open it and zoom all over the place to get as many details as possible. I will be honest, the moment I looked at the photo I thought “Portugal or Spain”. No doubt in my mind.

What made me think of the Iberian Peninsula? The bus stop shows ads to small flats with ornate wrought iron balconies, typical of the area. The trees (which I will identify) seem very Mediterranean. The bus stop shelter style is identical to many I have seen when living in Portugal and Spain. The small black bin attached to the big street light is also usually found in these countries. And lastly, the car models are also quite common around there.

In general I can also identify that this is a hot country so I am thinking South Portugal or Southern Spain. The colours of the buildings are not typical of the South of Portugal where we usually find a white and blue combination though. I am however quite certain we are looking at a hot country because of the amount of air conditioner units outside the windows of the yellow/orange building we can see in the distance.

Some other things we can infer about this place; This is a big city, there is (at least) three lanes and 2 bus stops very close to each other, both with several people waiting. There is a speed limit on the road and several bumps, probably leading to traffic lights. I would guess this is part of a large roundabout. I can also spot a long fence on the right side of the sidewalk. The photo was probably taken around the late afternoon because the sun is setting and there are plenty of young people waiting for their bus(es). My guess is that to the right of the fence there will be a secondary school and the pupils are on their way home now.

There’s a few things that stand out that make me question my guesses however. There’s a speed limit on the road that is very slow for a big city; I know that at least in Portugal the speed limit inside cities is 50 km/h so this is a huge difference. It made me question if the 20 is referring to km/h or mph. Will have to look into it. There is also what seems to be a public toilet in the distance in a style that I don’t remember ever seeing when living in Portugal or Spain but it has been many years since I have been there and things change constantly.

Now that we got the first impressions let us get to the actual factual information and test everything. First thing I like to do (when possible) is to identify any visible trees. The row of trees in the picture all seem to be part of the same species but I’ll crop and test two different ones and see what I can get.
The biggest one was identified by plant.id as Celtis australis whilst the one closer to the public toilet(?) may be an Acer platanoides.

So let us check which areas are they native to using wikipedia. On the image on the left below we can see the distribution of the Acer platanoides and on the right where we can find the Celtis australis in the wild. It seems they are mostly found in Europe, definitely in the Southern area. I’m still convinced this is Spain though.

I also got very curious about what looked like a public toilet in the distance so I googled “outdoor public toilet europe” and found the following image. It seems to confirm that I am looking at one, albeit with a slightly different design.

Another very obvious thing in front of us is the car. As I said above it is the sort of vehicle I remember seeing in Portugal and Spain. I am not sure if there is a specific reason for that memory so I decided to find out more information about the vehicle in front of us. We can, fairly easily, recognise the car as a Seat Ibiza but as I found a new tool to help identify cars I wanted to test it and get a better confirmation. Using carnet.ai, I uploaded a picture of the grey car in our geolocation challenge photo. It tells us that we are indeed looking at a 4th generation Seat Ibiza.

So now I got curious and wanted to see if I could find a list of the most purchased cars by country. I found a 6 year old map online and cropped the interesting part.

It seems Spanish people tend to really like Seat cars. So far I would say that almost everything seems to be pointing me in the direction of Spain.
There is only one problem. What’s up with that 20 speed limit on the road? Time to investigate that mystery!
I googled “ciudad espana limite velocidad 20 km/h” which roughly translates to “city spain speed limit 20 km/h”. Google was very helpful and immediately informed me that, from May 11, 2021, the speed limit in urban areas has become 20 km/h. It is all coming together! At this point I am completely convinced this photograph was taken in Spain.

I also know that this is clearly a big city due to the presence of two bus stops and a three lane road, as mentioned above, so I decided to find the biggest cities in Spain to try to narrow them down. Quite a lot of them though.

I opened google maps and went to each of these cities and looked for bus stops. I picked a few random ones (usually closer to roundabouts) and dropped there to check the street view. This was very useful to compare the bus shelter style of our photo to the local ones.

Ok, so now I will fast forward a couple of days that I spent trying to match bus stop shelter styles to each city on the list mentioned above, mostly focusing on the Southern and Eastern areas of Spain. The bus stop shelter styles of Madrid and Valencia are almost identical but I will spoil it for you now and tell you it is not there. I am however very familiar with the entire layout of both of those cities by now (not by choice).

After a bit of back and forth, and second guessing everything until this point, I found something useful. Using the cropped image above of the bus stop and the keywords “bus stop spain” on google images, on the 11th row (!) I spotted something familiar. The bus stop on the image below is very very similar to the one from our geolocation challenge.

If we click the image we are taken to a stock image photo with some description. It says the bus stop in the photograph is located in Granada.

Ok, time to now find the exact location of this image. I know that the hacktoria challenge only asked for the name of the city but I always go all in!

With google maps I looked around Granada for big roundabouts with bus stops close to the city centre and then tried to see if they were near a secondary school.
This is what I found. Not exactly a roundabout but almost and not exactly a secondary school but almost as well.

So let us check out the area using google street view at last. Below on the left you can see the original image, and on the right the screenshot I took using google street view. We can easily see the 20 km/h speed limit painted on the road, the nearest bus stop, the speed bumps, the fence on the right and the street light in the distance.

Manoeuvring a bit we can spot other details that were hidden on the screenshot above, behind the bus. We can see the second bus stop in the original image, the black bin attached to the street lamp and the public toilet. Again, below on the left we have the original (but cropped) image and on the right the screenshot using google street view.

It’s a perfect match and you can find the exact location using the following coordinates:
37.1832, -3.6064

We can finally answer our Hacktoria geolocation 12 question:

What is the name of the city this picture was taken in?
– Granada

I hope that this walkthrough was informative and helpful in case you were stuck.
If you reached the same conclusion using a different method feel free to share it as I would be very happy to learn new techniques and/or tools.

Thank you for reading!

~ Sofia.

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